Saturday, 13 September 2014

Back in the U.S.A

Good afternoon from Nashville, TN.  I'm back in the U.S.A.  After spending 2 years in Honduras, I flew back to the U.S. on August 22nd.  The 24 months flew by and it was certainly a great experience.  Now Carina and I begin the next chapter of this journey, our transition to the U.S.  

As of right now Carina is in Honduras completing her student teaching for the teaching degree she has been working on for the past 4 years.  We are also finalizing the visa application process with the U.S. government.  Our hope is that Carina will come to the U.S. in December once she graduates from teaching school.  

I returned in order to start interviewing for jobs as well as get settled so I would be prepared to help Carina once she arrives.  Thankfully I will be returning to Honduras this week for the Olancho Aid Foundation's annual board retreat, that will give me an opportunity to spend time with Carina.  I also hope to visit her in October or November when we have our appointment with the U.S. Embassy for her visa. 

It's not easy being away from Carina but we speak on the phone everyday, we skype some, and she is great about sending me pictures.  This past Wednesday was "Day of the Child" in Honduras so all the schools had celebrations for the students.  Carina dressed up like a clown for the special needs children at her schoool.  

As for the job search, I'm happy to tell you that I was offered and accepted a position with HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) this week.  Not only was I blessed to find such a great opportunity, but HCA is based right here in Nashville which means we will get to stay in Tennessee.  Good stuff all around. Many people have asked me what's the scariest part about quitting a job and moving to a 3rd world country for two years, and I would have to say it's the uncertainty of not really knowing how I would return to the workforce and what that transition would be like.  I started applying for positions online and networking about 2 months ago.  I started praying for a smooth transition back to the U.S. before I even left for Honduras.  I have to say that God has certainly been watching over Carina and I, so far the transition is going great.  

My last 2 months in Honduras were busy.  

Carina and I moved out of the house we had been renting since we got married.  It was not easy to move out of our first home, but we needed to move back into my in-laws house so once I moved to the U.S. Carina would not be living alone.   That gave us some good quality time with family as well which was  a lot of fun.  We did not go hungry.  Here is a picture of us as we were locking up the rental house and moving out.  The neighbor boy took the pic, little blurry. 

I had 4 volunteers from Louisiana and 1 from Massachusetts working with me this past summer at our first annual summer camp for the bilingual students at our elementary school.  I have a new respect for teachers, working with kids is a lot of work.  We had a great time, the camp was a huge success, and these camp counselors from the U.S. had an awesome experience living in Honduras for 2 months.  

The foundation that I was volunteering with is affiliated with an orphanage and each month Carina and I would try to spend some quality time with the orphans.  The orphans pictured below arrived at the orphanage as babies about 5 years ago, I have watched them grow up.  Here is a picture of a few of them waiting for the bus on their first day of kindergarten.  Thanks to sponsors in the U.S. they are attending Santa Clara Bilingual Elementary School, such an awesome opportunity for these kids.   As Carina and I begin a new phase in our life it was good to see that these kids are being blessed with the gift of Education. 

As for Gardo's home, here are some pictures from mid August.  The house is coming along nicely, I have included the before picture as well.  

Carina's father has a lot of experience building roofs so he was able to construct the metal roof.  Gardo and his son have done all the block and concrete work themselves.  Both of Gardo's kids are excited to have a house.  Someone in the community told me that they were talking with Gardo's son, Pilar, and Pilar asked them...."Did you hear that we have a house now?".  They are enjoying the security of block walls and the protection of a metal roof.  When I left in August Gardo was building some windows and doors.  I'm looking forward to seeing the house next week and I will take some more pictures to share with you.  Once he completes the windows and doors I want to send him some money so he can pour concrete floors.  Thanks to everyone who contributed to this project.  Very cool! 

In the photos below you can see a room on the left and a room on the right.  One room will serve as a room for their beds and the other will be a living/kitchen area.  The covered area on the front of the house will eventually have a concrete floor and will be used as an outdoor living area as well. 

The wood leaning against the house is what Gardo is using to build the windows and doors. 

After 2 years in Honduras most people have the same 2 questions for me.  What did I miss the most about the U.S. and what food was I most excited to eat once I returned?  As for food, it's difficult to find good Italian in Honduras so that's the food I missed the most.  I also missed the dining experience, most Hondurans don't have the luxury of going out to eat, certainly not to the types of restaurants we have here in the U.S. Aside from food, I would say that I really missed paved streets, running water, and air conditioning.  It is difficult to go for a run, walk, even more difficult to drive on dirt streets.  The dirt also creates a lot dust.   Running water is something we pay so little for in this country, but let me tell you it is more important than cable or electricity, just try turning your kitchen or bathroom sink off for a few hours if you don't believe me.    

As Carina and I begin this new phase of our lives, I hope we continue to cherish the simple things in life, take time to help others, and never forget all the people who helped us get to where we are today.   Living in Honduras certainly changed my life and while we can't be certain of what the future holds, we are both looking forward to seeing what God has planned for us.  Thanks for continuing to follow my blog and supporting the work we have been doing.  


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

$900 Received for Gardo's Home

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the home for Gardo and his children.  We have surpassed the goal of $800.  As of today I have received $900.  This will allow us to complete the 2 room home that we had planned and possibly add a bathroom.  I will send some pictures as they continue working on the house.



Saturday, 21 June 2014

Do you have an extra $10 for Gardo, Maria & Pilar?

Good Afternoon From Honduras! 

Here we are busy preparing for the first Summer Camp at our bilingual schools.   It's not quite Wimbledon or the World Cup but it's keeping us busy and will be an awesome experience for our students.  The entire country  was saddened by Hondurans loss to Ecuador yesterday. 

I traveled to Oxford, Mississippi in April along with 3 other employees from the Olancho Aid Foundation in order to attend Clean Water University.  The foundation I'm volunteering with has partnered with Living Waters for the World, an organization that provides purified water for communities in countries that don't have the luxury of safe drinking water.  Clean Water U is their training program that teaches organizations the process for installing water filters and educating people about the importance of purified water.  Like most 3rd World Countries, Honduras suffers the consequences that stem from contaminated water.  Many of the Medical Mission Teams that have been to visit us here in Juticalpa have explained that without purified water they really can't cure much of the disease that exists.  We hope that with these clean water systems we will see an improvement in health conditions.

Olancho Aid has already partnered with 2 villages here in Juticalpa where water purification systems will be installed.  We will educate these communities about the importance of drinking clean water as well as help them manage the process for selling clean water and sustaining a water filtration system.  In the U.S. we have clean water flowing from nearly every visible faucet, so training people to drink clean water is not really something we have to do.  Here in Honduras that is not the case, so we will have to start by educating people about the importance of drinking and cooking with clean water.  5,000 children around the world die each day because of contaminated water.

Here one of our employees (Oscar) learned how to assemble the filters.

Here we are with Steve Young, Executive Director, Living Waters for the World.

The Lion's Club here in Juticalpa organized a 5K & 10K Run / Walk to raise awareness & money for diabetes last month.   As I have mentioned before, exercise is not a common hobby here in Honduras so I was a little surprised to hear the event was taking place. This was the first time Carina and I had participated in a 5K together, it was a great event, they had about 600 attendees, complete with water stations, sponsors, and prizes.  I do see more people walking and jogging since the event took place and there is another run/walk scheduled for September.  Here they say "poco a poco"....little by little.

Carina and I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala at the beginning of June to visit with my brother and sister.  This was the first vacation we have taken with my siblings since we got married in November.  My brother and sister wanted to meet up for a long weekend but Carina and I are 3 hours from an airport and don't have many options when it comes to direct flights.  Antigua ended up being the perfect place to meet.  We had a great time, Antigua is a beautiful city.

We spent the weekend touring the city, visiting churches built in the 1500's, attended a chocolate class, ate plenty, and even started celebrating my brothers birthday a few weeks early.


The construction for Cindy and Carlos' house has been completed.  Carina and I went to visit them a few weeks ago and they are enjoying their extra space.  A place to cook, study, use the bathroom, and relax. It was a much needed addition for a brother and sister that had lived together in a space smaller than many walk-in closets.  Thanks again for all your support!  The project would not have been completed without all of you.

As I mentioned in my January post, we received great support for their project and felt there would be extra money.  The cost of the project totaled $1,900 and if you remember we had raised $2,600. Carina and I had been contemplating who to help with the additional $700 and while several people came to mind it can be very difficult to help the extremely poor.   In a country where so many people need help that may sound funny to you, but the truth is it can be very difficult to help people without enabling them, discouraging them, or creating problems. Most Hondurans work very hard every day for very little pay because they have the hope and dream of one day being able to afford their own home, send their child to school, or build an interior bathroom for their family.  However, that hope and that dream is what encourages them to wake up each day and go to work .  So the last thing we wanted to do was discourage someone from working hard or discourage them from accomplishing their dream of achieving something for their family.  Additionally this money came from you, our friends & our family so we wanted to be certain is was being used responsibly.

That being said, Gardo, Maria & Pilar are the people that we have chosen to help with the additional funds. Gardo is a friend of Carina's family and I had the chance to work with him back in October when he was doing some repairs to Carina's house prior to the wedding. Gardo is a single father and works in construction.  While he is a very talented person, there are a surplus of people in this community that can do the same type of work as Gardo, laying block, building foundations, repairing concrete walls, etc.  So that being said, when Gardo does find work he uses the money to purchase food for his children and pay for their school expenses (public schools are not free here in Honduras).

Below is a picture of Gardo's home where he lives with his 8 year old daughter (Maria) and 9 year old son (Pilar).  There are no separate rooms, just one room which contains 2 beds and a cooking area.  There is no bathroom.  

Here are a few interior pictures, the cooking area and sleeping area.  


Here is a photo of Carina and Gardo discussing the possibility of some funds for constructing a home made of block.  

Here Gardo takes some measurements as we were preparing the budget.  

2 days after giving Gardo the initial $500 I stopped by to see if he needed any help transporting materials as he does not have a car.  He wasn't waiting for any help with transportation, he got started right away, he had already purchased sand, block, cement mix, dug the foundation, and laid the first layer of block.

Here are some photos of the work he had completed by day 2.  He will build around his current home so his family has shelter and then tear it down once the new home is complete.   

Here is a photo of Gardo with his children, Maria & Pilar.  Mom left about 4 years ago and has not been back. 

The materials for a 2 room home for Gardo, Maria, and Pilar will cost about $1,500.  I have given Gardo the $700 that was left over from Carlos & Cindy's home.  If you are interested in helping Carina and I with the additional $800, we would love the support.  You can mail a check or click the PayPal link below.  THANKS!!


Mail Check To -
Elizabeth Freesmeier
7244 Althorp Way
Nashville, TN 37211

Monday, 31 March 2014

back to the Comayagua

Good evening from Honduras.  It looks like it's starting to warm up for many of you.  I was following all the snow storms, looked like a mess. We have had sunny days in the 80's & 90's here in Juticalpa, the department of transportation has had no concerns about the budget for road salt. 

About 6 years ago, May of 2008, I went on my first mission trip to Honduras with a group from my church in Brentwood, TN.  At the time I remember wondering how in the world I was going to take a week off work to participate in a mission trip, it seemed like a crazy idea.  We flew into the capital city of Tegucigalpa and drove an hour northwest to a town called Comayagua.  It was an amazing experience, one that led me to where I am today.  I continued going on mission trips with my church the following 5 years but we never returned to Comayagua.  I had always wanted to go back for a visit and this month I got that chance.  Carina and I, along with some of our friends had the opportunity to visit the waterfalls at Lake Yojoa as well as spend a day in Comayagua.  It was interesting to go back and see some of the places that I had first visited as well as show Carina where my Honduran adventure began.

Here are a couple pictures of the city of Comayagua.  It was actually the capital of Honduras until 1880. 

Carina and I in front of the Cathedral and in the center of the town park. 

Before arriving in Comayagua we visited the waterfalls at Lake Yojoa. 

Here we are a few steps away from the area where we started to navigate behind the actual waterfall, as well as a picture of us standing in the waterfall.  


Here is one of the rocks we had to climb before we could get behind the waterfall. 

The security guard at our office, Jose Luis, and his wife, Johana, recently had the baptism for their daughter, Samantha Nicole.  Carina and I were asked to be the Godparents.  Here is a picture of us at the Baptism last Sunday. 

Here's Samantha eating her baptism candle during Mass and a photo of her and Carina outside the church.   

As I have mentioned before many people here in Honduras don't have cars which means getting to the market to by groceries and household items isn't easy.   So it's very common for vendors to walk the streets selling items like brooms, tortillas, soap, vegetables, water, cell phone chargers and even T.V. remote controls.  These guys will strap items to their back, carry large bags, even balance boxes full of material on their heads.  I hear them outside my house almost every day trying to sell their goods.  You can hear them shouting "water, water, you want water"  or "brooms, brooms, I have brooms".  It is a convenient way to buy, just step outside your door and grab what you need, it's our version of Amazon Prime.  Here meet the water sales representative for our neighborhood. 


Carlos and Sindy's house is looking great.  Here is a picture of the shower and toilet room that has been completed.  If you remember from my first description of their original house, they had no bathroom.   

They have also moved their kitchen appliances and television out of their bedrooms and into a the new kitchen/living room area. Carlos bought a table and chairs so him and Sindy would have a place to study and eat.  This room has 3 large windows and 2 doors which helps create a nice breeze.  


Here is the covered patio where they spend most of their time during these hot months when it's just too warm to be inside.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child that attends the schools I'm volunteering with please e-mail me at or visit the Olancho Aid website at  We have many poor and special needs students that needs sponsors so they can attend school here in Juticalpa, Honduras.  

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

the wedding & the construction project

Happy New Year from Honduras & congrats to all the Seminole Fans, what a game!!

The wedding was beautiful.  We had a small civil wedding and reception at Carina's parents house a few days prior to the wedding and then a wedding Mass and large reception at the Catholic Church on November 30th. Here in Honduras you must have a civil wedding, and then if you choose you can get married in the church as well.  I have included some pictures of both of the weddings below.

My parents arrived a week prior to the wedding, it was great to have their help and credit card.  A few friends and my Aunt & Uncle arrived the Wednesday before the wedding, as planned, however my siblings and 4 other friends got stuck in the islands on the North Coast of Honduras, the weather was horrible and the planes could not depart.  That added a little stress to the wedding weekend, but thankfully after much frustration and time in the airport they all arrived safely by Thursday evening.  It was great to have everyone here.

Juticalpa, Honduras is not the easiest place to travel to so Carina and I were very grateful to those who made the journey.  We know that many of you were with us in thought and prayer and we thank you for that as well.

My brother served as my best man and my sister was Carina's maid of honor.

With our parents, my siblings, Carina's nephews & Padre Ricardo. 

From the left; my Aunt Fifi & Uncle Bob (from D.C.), my brother (Andrew) & sister (Elizabeth), my parents, Carina & I, Josh & Katie (Nashville), Tim & Krista (Tampa), and Suz & Mike (NYC)

Carina received a lot of compliments on her dress, her Aunt Juanita actually sewed it by hand, it was beautiful.

It's not easy to find large coolers here in Juticalpa so I wasn't sure what to do about keeping beer cold for the reception.  If you ever run into that problem, know that a horse troth will work just as well.  Carina's dad made this troth and a smaller one for the champagne.

Here are some pictures of the civil wedding that took place on the back patio at Carina's house.  We had a live Marimba Band, plenty of food, drinks, and dancing.  The area where the service took place was later transitioned into a dining area, and then a dance floor.  Carina's mother and aunts served a traditional Honduran plate, carne asada, chismol (pico de gallo), refried beans, & tortillas.  Carina's Aunt Suyapa from Chicago added a little North American flare by preparing some amazing BBQ ribs.

My long time friend Tim Kleman served as my witness at the civil wedding.  One of Carina's best friends, Lissy Canales served as her witness.  

The Marimba Band

Josh and Katie loading up at the buffet. 

Here's a picture of Carina's nephew (Anthony) making his 3rd trip to the chocolate fountain. Carina's sisters sent us the fountain and thanks to my mom & aunt it worked without creating a huge mess.  

My parents, Carina and I the week prior to the wedding at a church in Jutiquili, Honduras. 

My dad organized a 5K run/walk for the North Americans, I believe it turned into a 3K.  I did not get to attend because I was being a good groom and running errands with Carina.  I was at the bank when I saw three of my friends run through the plaza in these neon green shirts, needless to say they got a lot of strange looks.

As for the construction at Carlos and Cindy's house, the roof was finished last week and I believe Carlos has some friends that are willing to pour the concrete floors this week or next.  In the picture below you can see the addition.  The white and blue wall to the left are the original 2 bedrooms and the area in the middle with the 2 windows will be their living room and kitchen area.  The area to the right will be an outdoor patio that will include a small room for a toilet, a small room for a shower, and in between the two rooms will be a large sink or what we call pila (water storage container).  

Here is a better view of what will be the patio, shower room, room for a toilet, and water storage in between.  

Here are a couple pictures from last month before the roof was completed. 

The living room / kitchen area. 

For anyone who has been involved in a construction project you know that the original estimate is just that...the original and an estimate, so is the case with this project.  I have given Carlos $1,700 of the $2,600 that has been raised.  He has kept track of every dime that has been spent and aside from the concrete floors that need to be poured and windows that need to be purchased we are almost finished building what we had originally discussed.  Fortunately Carlos has found many friends and family members that have been able to help him with the labor.  I'm just waiting for the final materials to be purchased to see if there will be enough money to help another family, stay tuned. Thanks for everyone who has contributed to the project, you all have been a great blessing to Carlos and Cindy.